Birth of the New World

By Worldancer
“SOULMATES: are you ready for the drop of the century?” A voice boomed over the loudspeakers. “MAKE SOME NOISE!”
At the epicenter of Anime Metaverse’s official launch, Shibuya Crossing had become hype incarnate. People were jammed back to back, and Ryo could hear the piercing whistles from policemen over the noise.
The announcer continued, “In fifteen minutes, history will change forever with the launch of Anime Metaverse.”
“HELL YEAH!” Ryo shouted over the buzz of the crowd.
Massive LED screens on the surrounding buildings displayed a variety of anime and fashion companies—ZALORA, Burberry, and other fashion brands featured popular anime characters flaunting their clothing. A character caught his eye. Damn, One Punch Girl looks oddly stylish in a Burberry trench coat.
“This. Is. Amazing!” Ryo rotated his camera in a full panoramic arc. “So many people are also vlogging. All this organic coverage.” Speakers blasted Kumi’s latest song, the deep bass resounding in his chest.
“Ryo, hold the camera steady,” Hina raised her voice to be heard. “The viewers can’t see it properly otherwise.”
“It is steady,” he said. He maneuvered the camera as someone in a giant T-Rex costume hobbled past.
“Your arm is shivering,” she said with a playful chuckle. She poked his arm. “I can hold the camera if you’re cold.”
“Fine, but be sure to capture my handsome face for everyone on YouTube,” he said with a wink. He handed the camera over to her. “We should’ve come earlier—we’re so far from the stage,” she grumbled.
“Soulmates and Vixens, are you HYPED?” A familiar voice took over the speakers. The crowd went crazy, the chatter soaring to an ear-piercing volume. “Sit on me Minami!” someone screamed. The LED displays showed the world-famous vlogger on stage. She stuck out her tongue and batted her eyelashes at the cameras.
“You’re my vlogging idol!” Ryo cried out. He zoomed in on her.
“Hey, what about me?” Hina crossed her arms with a pout.
“You,” he said, “are my idol at everything else.” He ruffled her hair, pecking her on the cheek.
From the fringes of his hearing, he heard a quiet chant. A ripple in the sea of noise. It was incomprehensible, but the chant grew louder and louder, gaining volume as it swept towards them. Then they heard it. “RIKKA! RIKKA!” The chant slammed into them like a sonic tsunami as people around joined in. On the massive LED screens, they saw Rikka stride onto the stage to join Minami.
“OMG! It’s the legend herself!” Hina hopped with uninhibited zest.
“Watch the cam,” he said. “The viewers will compl—” Wow. Seeing her live in person, albeit on a screen, just hits differently. I mean, look at that vivacity and confidence!
“Hold this,” Hina passed him the camera. She scrambled to take out her mobile phone. “Selfie time!” They did a quick pose with Rikka in the background. “This will be my profile picture for this year,” she declared triumphantly. They watched Rikka as she prepared to speak. A brief calm graced the venue.
“These past times have been tough for everyone, but I had a dream to change all that. It wasn’t easy, but somehow we made it,” she said, holding a clenched fist to her heart, “and I’d like to thank everyone that supported me through everything.”
The rest of the Verses walked up on stage, supported by fervent applause from the crowd. A colored YouTube comment snatched his attention. Someone has tipped him fifty dollars. Sweet!
“Fifty dollars? Kent, you’re awesome,” he said, hoping his microphone could pick up his voice over the din. He read the comment attached to the tip.
Kent o’ Socks 9.50 AM: Popped by your stream to see Japan’s AM launch. I’m watching the celebrations at Times Square now. You should see what they’re doing over here!
“Oh? It’s just as hyped in New York? Tell me more,” Ryo said.
Kent watched the celebrations from his penthouse window. A massive screen on a nearby building displayed the count down. 57 seconds left. He closed the YouTube app on his iPhone and slipped it into his pocket. He would relish the last minute with no distractions.
“You know, Lilith,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d see this day.”
“Aren’t you one of AM’s biggest supporters?” Lilith walked out of the kitchen, a glass of red wine in each hand.
“It felt like ages ago when I first found the project.” He accepted a glass from her. “We’ve come so far.”
They stood by the floor-to-ceiling windows, shoulder to shoulder, in companionable silence. Ten seconds left. The crowd's roaring count down could be heard from their lofty perch, albeit muted by the glass. Their chants echoed off the buildings in rhythmic waves. One last second. The clamor from the crowd below rose to a reverberating pitch so mighty that Kent felt the windowpane beneath his fingers tremble. It was as if the glass itself acknowledged the birth of something wondrous. A beep sounded from his watch. 9 PM sharp. Confettis streamed through the air, glittering in rainbow hues whenever they caught the light. A series of fireworks exploded across the night sky, bathing the streets in shades of pink and gold.
“Cheers, to a moonshot turned reality.” Lilith raised her glass.
“Cheers, to socks and good fortune.” They clinked their glasses together.
“Wow. They really pulled off a spectacular release.” Alyssa said to no one in particular. Lying on her bed, she watched the live Times Square celebrations on YouTube. “And it’s all over the world,” she said, whistling in appreciation. She scrolled her YouTube feed, jumping from the US to Singapore to the UK, before finally settling on a Japan coverage by a streamer called Ryo.
She watched the crowd cheering on-screen and idly sifted through the YouTube comments.
Kent o’ Socks 9 AM: Long live the Sockaverse!
Prof Shinka 9 AM: I’VE WAITED 10,000 YEARS FOR THIS!!!
Shatea 9 AM: Wjdhruenfjeken69 LETS SOCKING GOOOO
She rolled across her bed, snatching up the sleek gray helmet on the desk. In her haste, the helmet slipped from her grasp, but she caught it in midair. I guess this is it. Her heartbeat is a fast merry tune. When was the last time I was this excited?
Her fingers shook slightly as she slipped on the helmet. She closed both eyes. In the darkness, she grew ever so conscious of her thundering heartbeat.
“It’s time,” she whispered.